Explorer Program Gives Youth a Taste of Public Service

Explorer- FeatureImagine you are a police officer. It’s late at night and you’ve just pulled over a suspicious vehicle. As you and your partner approach the car, you must analyze and decide your next move in milliseconds. Suddenly, the driver jumps out of the car and approaches you shouting that he “wasn’t speeding.” As you firmly ask the driver to sit back in his car, the front passenger steps out and pushes past your partner. As your partner commands him to get back in the car, the passenger abruptly turns towards you and reaches for a dark object in his pocket. How do you respond?

The initial reaction of cops is to draw their weapon in defense, keeping violence to a minimum. Law enforcement officers face these scenarios every day and have to make split-second decisions. While officers have come under scrutiny in recent months for a few questionable incidents, police departments are working hard to train their officers in a more intense way.

The scenario above was part of a practice exercise teens experienced during a Youth Explorer Program. Some departments choose to start young by educating high school students on what officers face through first hand experiences in the program while also serving their community. In the end the explorers are offered a chance to join the police academy and become an officer.

 

What happens at training?

As an explorer, members attend simulations that help them as officers, and they can ride along with a program officer and learn to shoot a gun. Of course this is under strict supervision; for explorers to enter the gun range, they must first prove themselves and have an officer present.

They can also join the prestigious Shooting Team, which travels to meetings and competitions with explorers from around the state.

Deputy Dallas Chisholm, who started the Pompano Beach Youth Explorer Program four years ago, said “The teams must prove themselves in front of 200 other young adults who also want to prove themselves as the best of the best.”

Explorers also experience situations cops encounter every day. From drunken driving simulations to emergency health situations and intense kidnapping settings, explorers experience simulations that will push them to determine whether or not they are ready. An officer will sit down with two of the ranking explorers and simulate a need for the police. Dispatch (the senior member) will “call” in for the explorers to approach the members and the situation will begin. Anything can happen when on duty, and that’s what the explorers learn firsthand. When the simulation starts, they must decide an appropriate course of action.

Explorers are taught how to execute the most extreme situation with absolute precision. Not to say there aren’t mistakes made, these are just teenagers after all. “It’s a learning experience,” said a teen explorer. “I accidentally pulled my gun out in a simulation because I thought they were reaching for a weapon… it was just his phone.”

During one of the simulations the explorers had to decide if they should call the ambulance or if they offer a police escort to the hospital for a woman in labor. Surprisingly, this is not an uncommon scenario. Cops must call an ambulance, but sometimes the person (if injured) might not have that much time. It is the duty of the explorer to learn what protocol dictates, and what is realistic for the situation at hand.

 

What do the explorers say?

Captain Rashawn joined the Youth Explorer Program when he was 16. His story was like that of many kids that we see every day. “I wasn’t on the right path; I was making the wrong decisions… When I joined the Explorers I felt like I belonged here,” said Captain Rashawn. “When I had the opportunity to speak to elementary kids, and seeing them interested in the uniform I had on. When one of the girls stayed in touch with me and said that I helped her, I really felt like this was where I was supposed to be.” Ever since that day, Captain Rashawn has poured is heart into the program, earning him the rank of captain.

But Captain Rashawn isn’t the only one who has risen through the ranks.

Yarely Soliz, Sergeant of the Explorers, is very honest about how she learned respect for people around her through this program, and how this program helped mature her. “This is a great place for any person to be; we all care for each other and support each other. I know law enforcement is where I will go in the future,” Sergeant Yarely said.

This is the hope of the program, to make a change in kid’s lives. If they don’t want to join the academy that’s fine; it seems as if the kids who don’t want to do it at first are the ones who go to the academy to become an officer.

 

How to get involved

For more information about the Youth Explorer Program call Broward Sheriff Office Deputy Armenteros, senior advisor at 954-605-6269. To apply, go to your nearest Sheriff’s office and pick up an application. If you aren’t sure if your Sheriff office has the explorer program, don’t worry. Broward Sheriff’s Office has nine different offices with this program.

Captain Rashawn and several other explorers plan to enter the Police Academy within the next year, preparing for a career of service and dedication to our community.

 

Geoffrey Still is an intern with Good News, student editor of Calvary Christian Academy’s SOAR.ccaeagles.org and founder of the “Crusader Corner” at Coral Springs Christian Academy.

 

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